A note on giving up.
It’s okay. Really it is. Set it aside, take a walk. Go somewhere new; get a cup of coffee. Do some yoga, or scream a little. Writing can be such a pain in the ass, you deserve to take give up for a little while. Or a month. Or a year. Or a few years.
Writing, if anything, is a roller-coaster. It’s moments of ebullient joy cut short by self-doubt and skepticism. It’s dark and light, brilliance and idiocy, utter bliss and deepest despair. And, it seems, such contradictions don’t go away, not with success or fame or age or time. Writers both in the glow of youth and the pallor of age experience the stress of creation, few without the struggle.
Writing. Is. Work. It can be enjoyable work, and even rewarding work. But success and accomplishment only come at the expense of time. If you don’t make time, if you can’t sacrifice lots of crap you thought you had to live with, you’re not going to manage. You just aren’t.
I don’t mean this to be melancholy or discouraging. But sometimes you do just have to walk away. Some projects aren’t going to work, no matter what you do; sometimes the timing is wrong. You can push through, but will you be happy? It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve put into it, if working on it is absolute suffering, and suffering without resolve or resolution, then you need to move on.
See, writers, we’re not the heroes of our stories. We can’t go on against all odds.We don’t have magic swords, or special powers. We’re just people, and occasionally cutting your losses and getting the hell on with your life (and other writing) is necessary.
But it’s not the end of the road; not for you, not even necessarily for your work. The reason I’m going on about this is that I’ve recently picked up a project that I started ten years ago. It was the first book I ever wrote from beginning to end, and also the first book I edited in a complete rewrite. And a month ago, if you had asked me about it, I would have laughed. I often referred to the book as something dead…
Why had I put the book away? For a few reasons. When I was writing it originally, I was growing too fast as a writer. By the time I finished the book, the first half was like someone else had written it. Editing tired me out. Parts of the book never melded, felt too juvenile, uncreative. Though it’s the fantasy genre, every time I read a book that had similar elements, I’d get down on myself. I let it discourage me instead of challenge me.
Most importantly there was a central problem I couldn’t resolve and, really, it was because I was not yet brave enough to do something within the narrative. It was not a choice I anticipated earlier, but something that I suddenly understood just a week or so ago.
In the last few days I’ve been hammering out the first chapter (again… my husband chuckled when I told him I was working on it again, and he said: “What, isn’t this the fourth rewrite?” – um, more like sixth. Or seventh? I have lots of drafts). And you know what? Now is the time. According to my defunct LiveJournal, sometime around late 2005 or early 2006 I stopped working on Peter of Windbourne. And you know what happened?
I stopped writing altogether.
Don’t. Let. This. Happen.
Once I got my brain back together (I did have a pregnancy in the middle of that… so, I have somewhat of an excuse) I never went back to PoW. I wrote new things. Three books, which hey, I’m not complaining about. I only regret the period of about a year where nothing happened (mostly the void of 2007). 2008 was the best writing year of my life. Even better than ’95, when I tried to rewrite the entirety of The Stand.
My meandering point? Just because you give up, doesn’t mean you can’t go back later. In fact, sometimes, it’s a much better idea. Oh, I’m not celebrating yet. I’m rewriting the whole book again (again?! part of my brain is currently laughing maniacally). A blind rewrite. With just my memories of the book, and the characters that I’ve spent so much time with. But it’s better. I can tell, already, that it’s better.
Thankfully, I gave up for a while because I’m ready for the challenge now.